ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Wednesday is the start of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, and it’s time to start preparing.
This year, St. Johns County residents have new evacuation zones.
News4JAX spoke with Joe Giammanco, director of St. Johns County Emergency Management, on how the county is preparing.
The last time the evacuation zones were changed in St. Johns County was in 2013. Since then, according to St. Johns County Emergency Management, roughly 50,000 people have moved to St. Johns County, so adjustments needed to be made.
Comparing the new evacuation zone map to the previous, the biggest change is the expansion of Zone A -- both along the entire coastline and the St. Johns River, as well as downtown St. Augustine.
“So people have to understand the evacuation orders are ordered when there’s a threat to them, themselves, their life, their property,” Giammanco said. “So we want them to get out of the way of the storm.”
Zone A would be the first to be evacuated. It also includes the historic Lincolnville neighborhood -- a location that is no stranger to flooding. St. Augustine resident Michael Davis has lived there since 1977.
“There’s a lot of people that are moving into the neighborhood, and they’re not used to hurricanes and they have a lot of fear,” said Davis.
Those in St. John County, especially the St. Augustine area, are no stranger to flooding, and tropical systems can flood businesses, close roads and do extensive damage.
Giammanco said that now is the time to prepare and that residents need to take this seriously -- especially those who have recently moved to Florida and have never experienced a hurricane season.
“Look at their kits, their emergency hurricane kits or evacuation kits,” Giammanco said. “We want them to go to our website if they’re new to the area. We have a hurricane checklist. We have a lot of information on our website.”
Giammanco said the decision to evacuate any zone ahead of a storm would not be an easy decision.
“So the community needs to know that decision is not made lightly,” Giammanco said. “However, the decision is made to protect life.”
And if it comes to the point that you are issued an evacuation order, there are consequences if you’d decide to stay.
″We don’t want to put our first responders in harm’s way during an event or during the storm to get to you,” Giammanco said. “It would have to wait till after, and you don’t want to put your life in danger.”
And, if you’re not sure what evacuation zone you’re in, click here. You can type your address in, and it and will show you your zone.